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Business Strategy

What Is a Business Intelligence Dashboard & Do I Actually Need One?

Andrew Levy

You’re driving home when you see blue and red lights flashing in your rear-view. You pull to the shoulder, turn off your engine, and roll down your window. The officer approaches.


“Do you know how fast you were going?” she asks.

“Can you wait a few hours?” you reply. “I’m still waiting on my analytics team to process the speedometer report.”

What is a Business Intelligence Dashboard?

A business intelligence dashboard (BID) is a place you can look to gain an at-a-glance understanding of key metrics, enabling you to answer important business questions and make decisions quickly.

Making decisions quickly is the operative part of this definition. If the metrics on a dashboard require a data science degree to interpret, or if you have to run them through additional calculations before they become useful, then it’s not a very good dashboard.


After you acclimate to a BID, you should be able to glean insights from it without really thinking. You’ll be able to spend just a few seconds looking at the numbers, charts, and other data visualizations and intuit exactly how things are going at any given moment. Professionals across industries use BIDs as the starting point for their work, referring to them multiple times a day, every day.

Q: But isn’t that just a report? 
A: No. Dashboards and reports might deliver similar information, but they serve very different purposes.

The most important distinction between the two is timing. Reports take time to produce. If they’re automatically generated, the turnaround might be just a few minutes — but if they require human preparation, then turnaround varies in relation to familiarity with the platform, schedules, and workloads.

In addition, reports only produce data for a certain historical time-slice, whether that’s Q4 of 2018, or Thursday afternoon between 3:00 and 6:00 pm. Dashboards, on the other hand, can be accessed with minimal interaction cost and typically provide real-time metrics.

These answer the question “how exactly are things going right now?”

Other major differences between BIDs and reports concern size and detail level. Dashboards are meant to fit on a single screen and provide data that can be understood at a glance. A dashboard with more than 10 or so KPIs isn’t going to meet these criteria. Reports, however, can be hundreds of pages long and provide detailed data that invites careful analysis.

Business Intelligence Dashboard Examples

solutions_BusinessIntelligence-Dashboard_ReportingBIDs are typically separated into two categories: operational and analytical.

Operational dashboards help users monitor time-sensitive information and perform important tasks. The dashboard in your car and hospital vital signs monitors are two IRL examples. More business-driven examples include:

Equipment monitoring dashboard
Example KPIs: machine operating speed, component temperature, storage tank fill level.

Helpdesk performance dashboard
Example KPIs: average time to ticket resolution, client survey feedback, number of issues escalated.

Call center performance dashboard
Example KPIs: average hold time, average call length, total call volume.

Analytical dashboards provide insights to support strategic planning and decision-making. Work won’t grind to a halt without these bad boys, but it will be kind of a bummer. Examples include:

Digital marketing scorecard
Example KPIs: traffic by channel, conversion by channel, digital ad ROI.

Sales performance dashboard
Example KPIs: leads closed per employee, lead to sale ratio, quote to close ratio.

Customer success dashboard
Example KPIs: NPS scores, average revenue per customer, attrition rate.

Looking for more examples? Check out additional marketing, sales, and support business intelligence KPIs in this blog post.

Do I Need a Business Intelligence Dashboard?


Dashboards let business leaders maintain always-correct answers to the questions that define their roles. Are sales up? Is my marketing working? Are my customers happy? Instead of relying on yesterday’s (or last week’s, or last month’s) numbers, business leaders with BIDs can operate using the latest and greatest intelligence. The idea is that this level of insight will lead to being right about more things more often.

So, if you’re in a position where you need to make key strategic decisions, chances are you could benefit from having a business intelligence dashboard. But before you can build a dashboard, you need these three things:

  1. Thoughtfully considered KPIs. Which indicators actually provide useful knowledge and enhance your understanding of performance? Before implementing a BID, it’s a good idea to audit your KPIs and brainstorm some new ones.

  2. Data to back them up. Dashboards require real data to function. You need to have systems in place to gather that data and funnel it into your BID. Small sample sizes and guesswork won’t do in this arena.

  3. Clearly defined objectives. Dashboards themselves also need to be tested and improved. That’s right: you need to have KPIs for your KPIs. Figure out which metrics will help you determine whether or not your dashboard needs tweaking in the future.

How Do I Get Started?

There are a handful of high-quality SaaS business intelligence dashboard providers on the market. Some of our overall favorites include Grow, Databox, and Domo

Others service specific verticals or offer specialty integrations and capabilities that make sense for certain clients. 

In any case, it’s smart to work with a trusted partner to help you select the right provider, integrate your new dashboard with your existing data ecosystem, and implement the dashboard within your operational or analytical environment.

Schedule a consultation with Salted Stone to discover which business intelligence dashboards make sense for your business.
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